In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Federation of Irish Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.
This week our focus is on gymnastics and answering our questions is Ciaran Gallagher who is the CEO of Gymnastics Ireland.
When did you first get involved with Gymnastics Ireland?
I was initially approached by Irish Gymnastics (as it was called then) in late 2006 to work with them as a consultant to develop a new strategic and business plan which we developed throughout 2007 and launched in 2008. This led into being offered the opportunity to work for the company in overseeing the roll-out of the plan and eventually becoming the first CEO in 2009/10.
What are the different gymnastics disciplines?
The first thing to realise is that the importance of the various disciplines is only really important once a gymnast starts to progress down the competitive pathway. The vast majority of gymnasts take part in what would be referred to as ‘participation’ based gymnastics – this covers everything from children going to their club for a couple of hours a week through to adult gymnastics classes and gymnastics based fitness classes, all of which are focussed on fun & fitness and involve taking part in various elements of all the different disciplines. Around 80% of Gymnastics Ireland members are in this participation/recreational pathway.
Once you get into the competitive stream then the relevant discipline competitive pathways kick in…
- There are 4 Olympic disciplines…
- Women’s Artistic (Vault, Uneven Bars, Beam, & Floor)
- Men’s Artistic (Floor, Pommel Horse, Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars & High Bar)
- Trampoline Gymnastics (men & women)
- Rhythmic Gymnastics (women only, dance based using hand-held hoop, ball, rope and club apparatus)
- There are 4 non Olympic disciplines…
- Acrobatics (gymnasts perform routines in pairs, trios and groups – think Cirque du Soleil)
- Tumbling (often referred to as the 100m backflip and somersault sprint of gymnastics)
- Aerobics (fitness based discipline)
- Gymnastics for All (participation based discipline focussing on providing events/competitive opportunities for all levels and ages on an international level)
How well do Ireland compete on the international stage?
We launched the Gymnastics Ireland Performance & Technical system in 2012 inline with our strategic plan and over the duration of subsequent plans we have built a very sophisticated system that in recent years has produced considerable success for Ireland as a nation on the international scene. The most famous gymnast having hit big on the international stage is Rhys McClenaghan who is the 2018 European Champion, 2019 World bronze medallist and 2 x RTE Young Sports Person of the year (2018 & 2019). Other gymnasts who have hit significant results include 2018 World Youth Olympic Games finalist Emma Slevin plus 2019 world cup medallists Meg Ryan and Jane Heffernan.
We have 200 gymnasts with great promise for future Olympic games that have been talent ID’ed and are part of our national squad system operating out of our world-class National Gymnastics Training Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus so the future looks bright.
How is Gymnastics Ireland funded?
We are funded 30% by public funding (through Sport Ireland)/sponsorship/corporate social engagement programmes and 70% through commercially generated membership revenues (membership fees, events, education resources and commercial programmes)
Has the sport grown in Ireland in recent years?
Gymnastics Ireland has grown from around 5000 members in 2007/8 to being one of the largest sports in Ireland today with over 35,000 direct fee paying members. This does not include the participation numbers in schools which are also huge as gymnastics is a curriculum sport.
The growth is part of a global trend which has seen the sport explode in popularity world wide where it is now one of the 3 category A Olympic sports (alongside Athletics & Swimming), with our European Championships being watched by an audience of over 650 million people and World Championships being watched by 1 billion people.
What is your favourite aspect of your role?
I am an ex gymnast myself (men’s gymnastics) so I love that I am able to work to help grow the sport I love on a national level and I’m immensely proud of the achievements of gymnasts such as Rhys, Emma, Meg & Jane in representing Ireland on the international stage.
How can people get involved in gymnastics?
Our clubs run inclusive programmes covering everything from mum & toddler sessions, through to kids gymnastics classes, adult gymnastics classes and gymnastics based fitness classes so there is something for everyone. People just need to go to the Gymnastics Ireland club finder section of our website and search their local area to contact their local club and get started…